Books · creativity · Practical

Super Summary: Deep Work

Next up in my super summary series: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

On this blog, a super summary is basically a “summary of a summary” of a book (with a few additions of my own). It gives you the basic idea of a book to see if you want to read the real thing. Most of the content comes from Lucid visual book summary series.

👉This book gives you official permission to set your chat app to do-not-disturb or enable Focus mode on your iPhone.

Deep vs. shallow work

Shallow work is work that’s done in small pieces, doesn’t require your full attention, and keeps you busy. It is often necessary, but does not lead to great achievements.

Deep work means complex thinking in a state of distraction-free concentration. Think flow. Your brain can do amazing things in this state of focus.

Many great thinkers in history went to incredible lengths to isolate themselves from distractions while they worked. Studies show that many of people’s happiest moments come when they are stretched to their mental limits and lose themselves in this state.

This intense focus allows you to master difficult skills and produce at an elite level.

👉 It’s a career builder.

Making time for deep work

Switching frequently between tasks leaves “attention residue” and makes it difficult to focus on a new task after switching focus, especially if you leave the previous ask unfinished.

To allow yourself to get the most out of deep work, schedule you time in blocks of deep and shallow work with one of these strategies.

👉I’ve found that I can only be productive at highly creative deep work for about 90 minutes at a time. Then I need a mental break.

Monastic

On one end, monastic deep workers go to great lengths to make time for deep work. They eliminate social media and use email sparingly to achieve their goals.

👉This seems pretty extreme unless you aim to be Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond or Bon Iver at his cabin in Wisconsin. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Bimodal

Bimodal deep workers plan their day to make time for the shallow and deep work they need to do.

This strategy can mean bookending a solid day of deep work email and busy work at the beginning and end.

 Rhythmic

Rhythmic deep workers break their time down into smaller chunks to fit their schedule.

👉This is how I work because, you know, meetings. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Journalistic

For those whose less predictable days, journalistic deep workers capitalize on spare moments that come up throughout the day, even if it’s just 30 minutes.

These people fighting for deep work time as their day evolves. 🏃🏻‍♀️

👉 For some additional ideas, check out Wired article How to Use Block Scheduling to Revamp Your Workflow.

creativity

J.K. Rowling’s storyboard – writing as engineering

Below is a snapshot — literally — of one of J.K. Rowling’s storyboards.

Firs of all, it looks cool!

But more importantly, it illustrates an interesting point. No matter how natural and effortless a Harry Potter book is to read, clearly writing it is a pretty analytical process. Starting with a big vision, drilling down into the details, and finally “shipping” the end result seems similar to making software.

I’m organizing and planning my own book using software engineering tools and processes, all the way down to version control and text formatting. What can I say, as a software engineer, this is my comfort zone. Having a good process gives me the freedom and security to be creative, try ideas without risk, and literally commit when I’m done. 🤷🏻‍♂️

And like a great app, I hope the end result will impact you but appear effortless. Stay tuned to see how that goes. 🤓 #goals

creativity

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

John Cleese gave this speech back in the 1990’s about creativity. Apparently he was a bit of a student of the topic. 🤷🏻‍♂️

His main point was that creativity is not something that you have or don’t have. And it is not related to traditional intelligence.

Creativity is a mood – an open, curious, and playful way of operating. He calls this playful, creative state “open mode”, whereas we normally go through life in “closed mode”, basically trying to get stuff done.

To be fully effective, a creative person needs to juggle both modes well. After all, you’ve got to find the creative flow and keep your projects on track to actually get sh*t done.

(Thoughtfully subtitled in German 🤷🏻‍♂️). Full version of the speech here.

This creative “open mode” is subconscious and requires de-focusing in a way. In other words, you can’t force creative breakthroughs. It is in this relaxed open mode where the creative magic happens. You just need to allow yourself the time and other factors to let yourself be creative.

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

One reason I liked improv class was that it forces you into this open, playful mode (even when you are terrified).

Hopefully, when creativity is applied consistently over time, then great things can happen. 🤓

creativity · You

Genius Happens When You’re Not Thinking

I love the idea that your brain makes its most interesting breakthroughs and connections when you’re not actively thinking. It is well stated in this article.

👉 Your Unconscious Mind Is a Supercomputer. Use It to Achieve Breakthroughs.

With really interesting problems, you usually don’t need to think harder. You need to relax and let you mind do its thing while you sleep or do errands. That is when genius strikes. ⚡️

Creativity is all about making interesting connections. Albert Einstein called it “combination play.”

In my experience, this unconscious combo play is important for figuring out what do to and not so much how to do it. Once the what is clear in your mind, it can be followed by all the conscious thinking and hard work to get it done. Unfortunately, that part does not happen in your sleep. 😉

As a side note, there is also a beautiful space when your mind is so immediate and present that is simply doesn’t have time to think. This is what I like about improv. And also baseball.

You can’t think and hit at the same time.

Yogi Berra (maybe)
creativity · You

Express Yourself (Ethan Hawke Edition)

Ethan Hawke gives an inspiring talk on creativity and how it forces you know yourself, lets you empathize with others, and gives you room to be a happy fool.

In singing our song, in telling our story, in inviting you to say, “Hey, listen to me, and I’ll listen to you,” we’re starting a dialogue. And when you do that, this healing happens, and we come out of our corners, and we start to witness each other’s common humanity. We start to assert it. And when we do that, really good things happen.

If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, if you want to help your friends, you have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself.

Practical · You

Things and the 5 Second Rule

I recently came across this book on Audible called The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I didn’t end up buying the book since I don’t want to send 7 hrs and 35 mins listening to a book about a 5-second strategy. The math just didn’t add up for me. 😆

But I saw there was a short TED talk on the 5 Second Rule plus an even shorter YouTube video on the topic.

The basic idea is that as you go through your day, you have things constantly popping into your head. These are fleeting things that you should do, would like to do, useful ideas, and so forth. Mel says you have 5 seconds to act on that idea or it’s gone, or at least you won’t do anything about it. And acting on those ideas is the difference between making the life you want and not. 🤯

I like that idea. But what can you actually do in 5 seconds? I mean, you’re probably driving or out for a jog or playing Wii. You can’t necessarily write down a note or call up your cousin right then and there and invite him to lunch. You can’t go adopt a dog in 5 seconds. And you sure as hell can’t write a book in 5 seconds.

Mel has other suggestions on how to handle this 5-second period, but I’ve been dumping things like this into the appropriately named Things app on my iPhone. It goes like this:

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to invite my cousin to lunch

That’s it. Now it’s in your inbox. You can figure out the details later, but at least now you have a placeholder / reminder. My Things inbox has grown way too long to be useful in the past (way into the hundreds), but I eventually fought it down, gradually turning this list into projects or reference notes or calendar reminders. I’ve also turned more than 400 fleeting thoughts into a database of book ideas (thanks to Evernote).

The only way I keep my Things inbox under control is to clean out the inbox once a week on Sundays. Usually I have about 40 things for the week to act on, organize, file, or discard. It takes about an hour a week.

And by the way, both this very blog and this specific post came out of a 5-second thought. 🤓

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to check out Mel Robbins and The 5 Second Rule

creativity · You

Maslow’s Pyramid

A while back, I posted a link to the Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs. The idea seemed useful, although it was not a hierarchy per se, but more of just a list. 🤷🏻‍♂️

I think the idea of the artist’s hierarchy was inspired Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is more of a real hierarchy. So it’s kind of cool to see this post.

👉 SELF CARE PART 2: CREATIVE HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

Basically it says that you need take good care of yourself before you can aspire to your “ultimate self-actualization”. I guess that’s super obvious, but still it makes for a cool idea and a good visual. 😆

Picture

And the Creatively, LLC blog looks great overall beyond this post. I like their motto, “Create Your Best Life”. Via Fresh Ink Austin